December

God’s been pushing me to write about this for weeks, so here we go…

Usually I post some funny story about my mom around this time of year, but I am just not in the mood. I feel like to do so is covering up how I honestly feel.

The faster December goes by, the better. I want to crawl under the covers and wake up on January 1st. It’s silly, but it’s honest.

I wish it were socially acceptable to do this until January.
I wish it were socially acceptable to do this until January.

I hate that I feel this way because the holiday is supposed to be about Jesus. It’s supposed to be about God’s promise to us, a savior. It’s supposed to be a day to celebrate his birth with our families and the wonderful gift that God gave the world. I’ve been reading a lot of Luke to remind myself of this, to remind myself of what it’s really all about.

All I can think about is how much I miss my mother and wish she were here.

Christmas was her holiday. She LOVED Christmas and she went all out for it every year. Even on her last Christmas here, she was all smiles despite the pain she was in from cancer.

Everything about this holiday makes me long for her. There are so many awesome things going on in my life right now, and all I can think is “God, why couldn’t she stay? Can I borrow her for a bit? I know Heaven is awesome and all, but can she visit for just a day?

There are so many things I wish she could be here for right now. Christmas is definitely one of those things.

It’s small things that I miss. We would spend nights visiting neighborhoods just to see Christmas lights. We went to all the holiday lighting events. We’d watch them on TV. She’d buy tons and TONS of lights each year to add to the already massive ball of lights we had from previous years. Did those lights from previous years actually work? Not at all. Half of them lit up, but she still held on to them and put them up every year.

Me: Mom, these lights don’t work.

Mom: Okay then, we’ll go to Walmart and pick up some more.”

Me: Can we throw out the ones that aren’t working?”

Mom: No, I can put those up outdoors.

Me: But they don’t work. Only half of them light up.

Mom: They still light up don’t they? We’ll put them up outdoors…

Me: Mom, that’s really ghetto.

Mom: No it’s not. It’d be ghetto to put them on the tree.

Me: Fine. But I am not going to untangle that ball of lights.

When I went through my moms house after she passed, there was a massive box of christmas lights. MASSIVE. It was a tangled, crazy ball of lights that would have taken ages to untangle. And less than half of them lit up.  I threw them out. I may get smacked by mom when I get to Heaven, but not even Jesus could save those lights (nor would he want to).

lightkeeper-pro

As much as she loved Christmas lights, she loved Christmas trees even more. We ALWAYS had a tree (a REAL one) every Christmas. She would keep the tree up well past Christmas to the point the thing was not only a fire hazard, it was a weapon.

We have seriously had trees this dead, still DECORATED in our house.
We have seriously had trees this dead, still DECORATED in our house.

There were numerous times my sister and I would be found on the floor, whimpering because we stepped on a dry christmas needle.

The funny thing about my mom is that she never used the same ornaments. NEVER. Each year our tree had a new theme or color. We’d have a huge discussion on what colors should be on the tree that year and then we’d go out and shop for ornaments for the theme we selected.

One year, my mom wanted to dabble in Kwanzaa, so she made these handmade ornaments out of Kente cloth. They were pretty cool. When she realized that Kwanzaa was a week long and involved handmade gifts for each day, she said that having a christmas tree with african print ornaments on it was Kwanzaa enough.

images-129
This was a fun and very bright tree.

Even when she could not afford it, somehow we always had a tree. One year, she could not afford to get us a tree in time, so she decorated this random palm tree she had with lights and ornaments. I was six, my sister was three, and I remember her telling us that Santa brought us a tree from Florida this year. We accepted the palm tree, but she could tell that we wanted a real one. I don’t remember how she pulled it off, but she brought in a christmas tree later than evening. We were thrilled. I knew my mom had no money but she got that tree.

We did not have a lot of money at all growing up, but my mom made miracles happen on Christmas. We never lacked. We always had food. We always had something under the tree. We always had fun or had something funny happening. We were always together. Even if she went without, we never did.

That’s how much she loved us and Christmas.

I visit Christmas tree lane, I see Christmas tree lights and decorations, and I fight back tears.  I do Christmas related activities with friends, coworkers and pray that I don’t turn into a sobbing mess. It’s been over four years and this holiday STILL hurts. I’m relatively okay on Mother’s day and her birthday. But December…Christmas hurts.

I go back to Psalms 147:3 and read:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Well Lord, brokenhearted. Wound. Heal please.

Change

I have not written in such a long time.

I don’t like change. I really don’t like it. Good or bad, not a big fan of change.

It really hit me as I sat on my floor, a sobbing mess, trying to figure out why on earth I felt so…sad. I just got  blessed with a new job, I have 17 days off till I start that job. Yet I’m a sobbing mess.

After collecting myself and listening to the Lord for a bit, he gently reminded me that  I don’t like change and I needed to mourn leaving a place where I had become comfortable for past nine months. Although there were some dark days…and lemme tell ya, they were DARK, there were some very good days. Even awesome days. I actually liked the majority of the people I worked with. I formed relationships in that short time. I had coworkers that were really fun. I had a very encouraging boss.  And I loved my clients, even the most difficult ones.

So I mourned. It was sloppy, snotty, uncontrollable, LOUD…but I mourned. And now I feel better.

Goodbyes are hard. I don’t like them, even when they are necessary. Change is necessary as well. It’s unavoidable. We change, our environment changes, people change. It’s bound to happen. The only thing that doesn’t is God, and for a girl who longs to finally be rooted; that’s a great thing.

I looked up some reasons on why people don’t like change and found this cool article from positivityblog.com.

I’ll paste it here.

Enjoy.

 

Six Reasons People Don’t Like Change, and What to Do About It.

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.”
James Allen

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”
Arnold Bennett

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Anais Nin

You have probably arrived here because you want to make a positive change in your life. Perhaps you want to improve your social skills, your health or simply your attitude and how you think.

Now this is great. But it seldom that easy. There may be obstacles outside of you. There are almost certainly obstacles inside of you.

In this article I’ll explore some of those common obstacles that can make change so hard and how to overcome them. Hopefully you’ll find something that can help you to move forward to make that change.

1. You don’t want to change.

Maybe you think you want to change something. But is it really your wish? Or is it the wish of your parents, boss, partner, friends or society?

If you don’t really want to make the change deep down then it will be very hard to go the distance. Yes, you can begin but if there is no inner drive to do it then you will lose motivation easily and feel like giving up all the time after a while.

What to do about it: Sit down and really think about whose goals you are working towards. If they are not yours the think about what you can do to stop working on them and spend more time on your own consciously chosen goals instead.

If you still have to go on with may have started as someone else’s goal – perhaps your boss has told you to do something and you can’t just ditch that if you want to keep your job – then find your own reasons for working on that goal. Brainstorm and write them all down. Review that paper and make the goal into more of your goal and know why you are working towards it for you own sake.

This is also why it is hard – if not impossible – to change someone else. So be careful about such wishes and hopes.

2. You don’t feel courageous enough.

Change can be scary. Doing things for the first time or stepping into the unknown can pretty frightening. You may feel like you need some courage to make those changes you want, to take those first steps.

What to do about it: Well, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

You have to be willing to take action, to move out of your comfort zone and to face fear to increase your courage and self confidence in a way that stays with you (not like when you pump it up temporarily by using different exercises or music for example). You have to be willing to take the punch and risk some emotional pain for a while.

There is no way of getting around that.

And I won’t lie to you. Sometimes it will suck. You will go to bed and feel sick to your stomach and just hope the day will end. But many times you will feel great as you just move over that invisible barrier and face your fear. You may not even get the result you wanted but still feel great about yourself because you just dared to face that fear or take some action.

But what about the times you felt sick to your stomach and went to bed feeling not so good at all? Well, the next day you will wake up. And you realize that you are still here. You are intact and the earth keeps spinning and you get up for a new day. Life continues. But now you know deep down that you can handle things at least a little bit better because you could handle what happened yesterday. You have raised your confidence in yourself and become stronger.

And another thing is this: when you do things you don’t just build confidence in your ability to handle different situations. You also experience progressive desensitization. What that means is that situations – like for example public speaking or maybe just showing your latest blogpost to an audience out there – that made you feel all shaky become more and more normal in your life. It is not longer something you psyche yourself up to do. It just becomes normal. Like tying your shoes, hanging out with your friends or taking a shower. And so you don’t really need that much courage after a while.

3. Your environment is holding you back.

If you are for example trying to lose weight then it will be a lot harder if the people around you are eating junk food every day. If you are trying to think more positively then it will be a lot harder if you hang out with negative people all the time and watch the news and negative and fear-inducing TV-shows too much.

What to do about it: Change your environment in a ways that will support you. That’s doesn’t mean that you have to take drastic measures like never talking to some friend or family member again to cultivate a more positive attitude.

It may just means that you cut down on seeing the most negative people/TV-shows etc. that much and replace that with more time with positive people and positive media consumption. By doing that the process will be so much easier.

If you are trying to lose weight then find people with similar goals that you can spend some time with each week. Even if it’s just via an online forum of some sort.

Carve out some time and a space for yourself with people and motivational and educational information – books, blogs, magazines etc – that will support you as you move towards your goal. Also, by involving more people and/or for example signing up for courses somewhere you will feel commitment to people you like and a bit of positive social pressure to actually go there when you are supposed to instead of slacking off on the sofa.

One common problem with the social environment is that you perhaps fear what people may think if you make change. Well, in my experience people are seldom as harsh as you think they will be. They are most often supportive or simply not that interested/neutral to you making changes.

People are most often focused on their own goals and challenges in life. Or what other people may think of them. You are not the center of the universe. :)

4. You feel like giving up after one or three failures.

When you are really young then you probably don’t build failure up to be this huge thing. You learn to walk, fall down and ding your head and get up again. The same goes for learning to ride your bike.

But through influence from school and society failure becomes this increasingly more frightening thing. Sure, as you get older the stakes become higher and you can lose more if you fail. But I do think people often exaggerate the effects failure will have simply because they feel frightened.

What to do about it: Most of the time the sky will not fall if you fail. People will not mock you. Life just goes on, as I mentioned above while writing about courage. But you have to do things to gain this understanding. You will not get it just by reading these words and all the other things by people who have said the same thing for centuries.

Your mind has to experience failure – or the possibility of it – over and over to make the fear of failure to lot smaller. That has at least been my experience.

You may however find motivation in that failure teaches you things books/blogs cannot. By changing your perspective to a more curious one and seeing failure more as a learning experience than something to fear it becomes easier to handle.

5. You don’t feel enough pain yet.

Why do people change? Oftentimes I think they have simply had enough. The pain of staying as you are becomes too big and you seriously start looking for a positive way forward.

What to do about it: Besides waiting until the problem becomes pretty much unbearable you can try to see your future self vividly in your mind.

Ask yourself: What will this lead to in 5 and 10 years? Where are you going?

Towards massive debt, a heart attack, serious illness and severe restrictions in your future? Do you want go to that place where it is very likely that you will wind up if you don’t make a change? Then see your future self where you have made the positive change. What positive and awesome things has it brought you in 5 years and in 10 years? See it all in your mind. And remind yourself of the positive and negative consequences by writing them down and reviewing them whenever you feel like quitting and going back to your old ways.

Vividly seeing the probably very real future consequences of not changing can be that nudge you need to get serious about improving something in your life.

6. You don’t know how to practically make the change.

This is a common obstacle. Fortunately, we nowadays have the Internet so it’s a lot easier to find practical solutions to the problems many people have faced before you.

What to do about it: Ask yourself what have other people before you or around you have done to improve their situation?

Talk to people who have made the change you want to make (lose weight, quit smoking, improve the social life etc.). Or if you can’t find anyone, read the top rated books on Amazon.com on that topic or read blog articles.

But make sure that you take advice from someone who has actually been in your shoes and gone where you want to go. Find a way that suits you. It may not be the first method or system you try. So be patient. Keep moving forward towards the things you want most in your life.

 

Light

I got another blogging assignment from She Reads Truth! Yay. Here goes something 🙂

image

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalms 130:5-6

I find myself laying in bed in complete despair. Life is not what it should be. I do not want to get out of bed and face the day. I want to hide in my room, never leaving the comfort of my covers. There has been too much change.  My hope has been shattered. My promises seem broken. Everything in my mind is shouting loudly that all has failed. As I lay in my bed, listening to the roaring negative thoughts in my head, a calm small Voice sneaks in.

“Alexis, things are not what they seem.”

I’m amazed that I can hear this Voice above the negativity roaring in my head. The negative thoughts seem as surprised as I am and they stop at once. This new Voice has my attention.

“Alexis, this year I am going to restore your hope. Take a walk with me, daughter. All of this has a purpose. These changes, these trials are meant for good. Remember last April…’I have heard your prayers and know your promises. I am quickly working over them.  I will bring you so much joy, you will not know what to do with it.’  Continue waiting and trusting, daughter and these promises will be granted to you.”

I allow these words of comfort to sink in. I wipe the tears from my eyes, peel off the warm cocoon of my blankets, and get out of bed.

That was January 1st of this year.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

Waiting on the Lord is not easy. There are so many times I want to throw in the towel, give up and just hide. For a long time, that was my response. I was content in the darkness. I longed for the night. I would flee from the sunrise. The brightness of sun hurt my eyes. It’s brilliant rays hurt my skin. I felt exposed in it’s light. Vulnerable. Hopeless.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

My soul however, longed for more. It craved the light. In the light, I found peace in the loving embrace of a Father. I found hope. Love. Joy. Safety. Forgiveness. All the things I longed for and God wanted to freely give. I just had to learn to trust Him. I had to learn how to wait and find joy in the waiting.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

In the waiting, hoping, trusting,  I’ve built this relationship that I can’t live without. I must spend time with the Lord. Before it seemed like a burden, sadly. Something that I had to do. Now, it’s something that I look forward to. The more of myself that I give, the more He freely gives me. It’s such a gift to have this relationship. To have the love and forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It feels good to let go, put myself aside and just follow the Lord.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6 my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

I’ve come a long way from that dark morning on January 1st. Life ain’t always a bowl of peaches, but as long as I wait on the Lord and remember the love He has for me, it’s easier to hang in for the long haul.

Thanksgiving Top 30…actually 10.

Around this time of year, I miss my mother tons. I always will. The plus side to her passing is not only do I have these awesome memories of the times we spent together during the holidays, I also get to make new memories with others and be a part of their family. It’s pretty cool.

So with November ending, and December being practically tomorrow, I figured I share some of my favorite Thanksgiving  memories. I’m going to try to share 30 of them for each day in November…the operational word in this sentence is TRY.

Okay, so it’ll be more like ten.

Here we go:

10. The thanksgiving my sister fell down the stairs.

This is kind of an awful one to start with, but it is still one of my favorites. My mom invited my aunt over, and had spent hours preparing this huge meal. It smelled amazing and WE WERE STARVING. (Sampling the food while it cooked was a crime punishable by being smacked with a soup spoon…on the knuckles). Just before my aunt was to start the thanksgiving blessing, my sister decides to run upstairs to grab something.

Note: We had been sitting around for hours just chatting and NOW she chooses to leave the table as we are about to start eating? I think we all wanted to murder her.

My mother dangerously close to giving into the rumblings of her belly, yelled for her to hurry up or we would start praying without her. As my sister starts to shout for us to wait, we are all interrupted by a loud shriek and then several loud thuds with the loudest ending with a groan. Do we jump up and race to the stairs in concern? No. We laugh. Hard. Then run to the stairs.

Carpeted stairs are evil folks.
Carpeted stairs are evil folks.

There my sister lay, at the bottom of the stairs, groaning that she had probably hurt her butt and arm. We laugh harder and help her up. As my aunt gives the blessing, I am being smacked and my mother whispers that “God is going to get you” because I can’t stop laughing during prayer. The best part? My mother would randomly repeat the sound my sister made falling down the steps throughout dinner. And God’s supposed to get me, right?

We aren’t terrible people. We just find falling really funny in my family.

9. My first thanksgiving without my gallbladder.

I got my gallbladder removed when I was 21. It completely changed my diet to fat free EVERYTHING and took me a long time to adjust. My mom wanted to make sure that I did not feel left out of the gorge fest that was thanksgiving, so she revamped our menu.

Mom: Alexis, I am making the slides completely healthy this year. No butter in the yams, smoked turkey in the greens and black eyed peas, salad, fresh fruit and  vanilla soy milk in the mac and cheese.

Me: Okay, mom you really didn’t have to do all that. I’ll be fine. Also vanilla soy milk sounds terrible in mac and cheese. You know they have original right?

Mom: It’ll be fine. We’re eating it. I bet I start a trend…vanilla mac and cheese. You’ll wish you came up with it.

I honestly think she picked this because blue was her favorite color.
I honestly think she picked this because blue was her favorite color.

My mom plates our healthy meal, we pray and we all sample the mac and cheese first. My mom looks at me and says: “This is really terrible. You’ll just have to eat healthy all year and cheat on thanksgiving.”

8.  My mother guarding the turkey EVERY thanksgiving.

As mentioned earlier, my mom guarded her turkey like rabid dog. My sister and I made several attempts to sample the bird she prepared; each attempt ended in sore knuckles. My sister and I would try anything, crawling, hiding in the pantry, fake deaths. Nothing would sway here from her purpose: protecting that turkey from our greedy hands. Just when we thought the coast was clear and we were oh so close from picking a juicy piece off that turkey,  she would come out of no where, spoon in hand.

I still flinch when I see someone brandishing one of these.
I still flinch when I see someone brandishing one of these.

We finally got smart and hid the spoon. She upgraded to spatula. It was just a losing battle.

7. Every thanksgiving prayer with my Aunt Val.

My Aunt Val loved to bless the meals. She had beautiful prayers…LONG beautiful prayers that were more like sermons. My sister and I would ALWAYS get in trouble when my aunt prayed. We fidgeted. We made faces that we thought no one could see.  My aunt would start praying, and after a minute or so, my hand was getting pinched. Or my sisters. I could never figure out how my mother knew, but she knew. I’d open my eyes a little and see that my mothers eyes were closed, but she ALWAYS knew.

My prayer request, that this prayer moves faster so we can eat.
My prayer request, that this prayer moves faster so we can eat.

Side note: Aunt Val…we love you. We apologize for what we did in hunger; smelling all that food for hours on end and not being able to devour it until after prayer was torture for us kids. We hope you didn’t notice.

6. The thanksgiving my mom let me make my own pumpkin pie.

My mom normally cooked the entire meal by herself. As we got older, she reluctantly released her kung fu grip over that meal and let us help. My mom put me in charge of the pies, and I wanted to make a pumpkin pie. After I finished the sweet potato, I started on the pumpkin pies. Thinking the pie filling came pre-sweetened in the can, I just dumped the contents of can into the pie crust. It was the nastiest pie we’d ever eaten (my mom made us eat it) and got pumpkin pie banned from our house for a few years.

They should really put, "seasoning not included" on the can.
They should really put, “seasoning not included” on the can.

5. The thanksgiving football orange juice incident.

My mom was a diehard football fan.  DIEHARD COWBOYS FAN to be exact. Often, our neighbors would come over concerned that someone had fallen or injured themselves from all the screaming that came from our house. Once they found out it was my mother cheering in joy or screaming in agony over a football play, they would roll their eyes and ask us to keep it down.

I was the only person in our household, our family, that was NOT a fan of the Cowboys. I would poke and prod my mother during every interception, missed catch, failed touchdown, etc. One year, my mom got so fed up by my jeering and attempt to turn the channel during the Cowboys game, I got orange juice poured over my head.

I learned to run and made sure no drinks were nearby during Cowboys games.

4. The thanksgiving I met my older siblings.

In March 2006, I got a call during my spring break from Rochelle, my oldest sister from my dads first marriage. We had been looking for them for years and had given up any hope of finding them. When I moved to VA later that year for an internship, I knew I had to see them.

It was a blast.

I got sample chitlins for the first (and last) time. My brother made his first fried turkey and I got to eat it.  I got to see where I was born and where my mom and dad were married. I met my nieces, nephews, step siblings and cousins. I met so many family members that I never knew I had and they were so welcoming.  It’s something I prayed for a very long time.

My nephew, completely knocked out after we stuffed our faces. So cute.
My nephew, completely knocked out after we stuffed our faces. So cute.

3. The first thanksgiving after my mom passed.

My sister and I made plans to be together for thanksgiving and she planned on coming to Fresno.  My roommate at the time offered to let us spend turkey day with her…but she was a little nuts (well a LOTTLE nuts). My friend Tara thankfully had also offered and her mother, Laura, is very similar to my mother. So, I accepted the invitation and we had dinner with the Hodges…and Darin.

My sister educated Darin (who I barely knew at the time) on black  stereotypes and shared stories about me with the rest of the dinner guests. Darin chucked Tobblerones all over Laura’s living room to her horror. Tara, Darin, my sister and I took a mini Thanksgiving road trip. There was a lot of laughter, teasing,  awesome food and I didn’t really think about how much I missed my mother. My sister loved it too.

I don't exactly remember why this picture was taken, but it happened.
I don’t exactly remember why this picture was taken, but it happened.

2. The year my mom spent thanksgiving with me in Fresno.

The costs of cancer treatment caused us to lose pretty much everything. My first year of grad school, I gained my mother as a roommate for a few months. My mom wanted everything from her original menu, black eyed peas, ham hocks, neck bones, collards, mac and cheese, the works. The downside is, I had limited knowledge of the Fresno area, and I wasn’t too sure that we would find everything she wanted.

Our search took us to a Vons (Safeway) on Champlain and Perrin.

Pretty sure we won't find ox tails here...
Pretty sure we won’t find ox tails here…

One look at our surroundings, I knew we were not going to find what she was looking for.

Me: Mom, I don’t think we will find what you are looking for here.

Mom: Why not? This end of town is really nice for Fresno. I’m sure they offer a bigger variety.

Me: You know that’s not true and we won’t find ox tails here.

Mom: (Loudly)  I’m not getting shot today, Alexis. We are NOT going to Fresno’s ghetto. This may be the white part of town, but at least we won’t be robbed.

Me: (Face palm)

After several stores, we ended up finding a Winco in Clovis that had everything she wanted. We made an awesome meal for my friends and we did not get “shot”.

I should mention that my mom was NOT a huge Fresno fan.

1. The thanksgiving my mother “prepared”  dinner from her bed.

This was my last thanksgiving with mom. My mom went through chemo and radiation during the holidays. She was sick, but she was determined for us to have a good meal and she was determined to eat it. My sister did most of the cooking, but we managed to make the entire meal with my mom shouting recipes from her bed. The meal was delicious. The only thing that did not make it was the black eyed peas that my sister burnt beyond recognition.

It was really this bad.
It was really this bad.

My mom cracked on those black eyed peas the entire meal, but she was proud of us. It was a great meal, and it gave me a new respect for my sister. We’d been through a lot that year, and had a lot of loss, but in that moment it didn’t matter because we were together.

Burnt black eyed peas and all :).

September

It’s been a while since I updated.

After my adventures with roller coasters (I promise to write about that soon), my life became this huge whirlwind of change. Long story short, right after my trip I got a job, gave my two weeks notice, packed up my life and left Arizona. I’m finally  back in Fresno again. Yay. My new job doesn’t start until October 7th, so I have a LOT of free time.

Forgive me, my writing is a little off. I’m in a weird probably shouldn’t be writing mood, but need to post this.

I went to Monterey yesterday to spread my mother’s ashes. It was time. I’ve had them for about three years and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since she passed away. September is her birthday month, and although I missed the chance to do it on September 3rd, I knew I had to do it before this month ended. I borrowed Laura for support, as well as to have someone tag along so I didn’t get horribly lost, and headed to Monterey.

I went into this adventure thinking it would be a happy trip, filled with fun memories with my family celebrating my mother’s 50th birthday. It was, but I didn’t expect to feel the amount of pain I felt when we arrived. I felt the tears wanting to come as soon as we hit Fisherman’s Wharf.

Oh no you don’t” I told myself as I walked along the pier sampling clam chowder. I couldn’t understand why I would feel sad.

I scolded myself again. “This crying business is not happening here.”

I don’t cry in front of or around others.  I want to be able to, but right now my body goes on lock down. So, instead of crying, I stuffed my face with plenty of crab, tilapia, clam chowder and salad as I could fit in my stomach.

After we ate,  we rolled ourselves into the car and drove to the beach.  My intention was to find the spot my mother took us to after the aquarium and spread her ashes there. I asked God to help me remember the spot. As we climbed out of the car to take a few pictures of this gorgeous park we found, I looked through the trees and saw this:

There it is :)
There it is 🙂

I remembered the stair case.

I remember carefully climbing down to the bottom with my mother yelling at us that she was going to fall because she was in heels.

I remember running along the shore, playing in the waves with my sister while my mother watched.

I remember my mother coaxing us to move further back into the water to pose for this picture:

We had no idea a massive wave was coming.
We had no idea a massive wave was coming.

I remembered the spot.

We were too afraid to do the same to her. We knew better.
We were too afraid to do the same to her. We knew better.

Unfortunately, that spot was heavily populated and I didn’t want to freak anyone out spreading my mothers remains. We decided to hop in the car and find a secluded spot along the beach nearby.

Ten minutes later, we spot waves crashing in the distance and select our spot.

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Laura asked if there was anything special I needed to say before I let her go. I didn’t really know what to say or have much to say. I walked out closer to shores edge, waited for the waves to come in, and threw her remains into the ocean.

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Beautiful spot.

Her ashes turned the water a pale pink as they collided with the waves. Then they were gone.

The waves were getting pretty big at the spot we chose, so we decided to hop in the car and find another spot just to enjoy the ocean.

I spotted this sitting area on the beach, excused myself, put on some head phones and let the tears come.

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I realized why Monterey brought so much sadness. When I was here six years ago, life was good. There was no cancer, no sorrow, no thought of death. Life had just started to get good.

In  2007, my mom finally found her dream job, started being successful and was finally happy. We were all finally happy, finally stable, finally rooted.

Little did we know that in October of that year what we all thought was just a simple bladder infection was actually cancer.

You guys, I grew up watching my mother struggle over and over again to make ends meet. My mom would finally make it, and literally get hit by a wave that sent our family spiraling. This was all I knew. My life was one big ocean wave, building and crashing. I would pray that we would finally have some sort of stabilty, some safety net that would break this constant cycle. My mom moved to California from Georgia in 2001, and the cycle continuted there for a bit until 2005 when things started to improve. Then she got her teaching job and was the happiest I’ve ever seen her. Then, from October 2007 to July 2010, I watched cancer eat away at my mother, my family and we lost everything.

Me: Things had just started getting good…and we lost everything. My mother lost her life.

God: I know.

Me:  She was so happy. She finally made it and she  got cancer.

God: I know it’s hard to understand. I know her loss hurts.

Me: What’s the point? Why look for happiness?  Why put yourself out there when you could lose everything? Why open yourself up to that much pain and disappointment?

God: You aren’t meant to be alone. You can’t hold others away because you are afraid you’ll lose them. You can’t run away because you’re afraid of loss and you can’t be afraid to be happy.

Me: So God, what if I open myself up and become vulnerable to others and I lose them? What if I find happiness and I lose everything?

God: Even if  all that happens, I am still God. You still have me.

In the heat of that moment, in that conversation I realized how true that is. He is still God. I still have Him. I have nothing to fear because I’ll always have Him.

When my mom died, a big part of me died as well. I lost my ability to trust God and built a huge wall around myself designed to keep others out. Why be happy? Why try for the things you love if you are just going to lose them? It’s not a way to live, and frankly, it’s a lonely, fear-filled life.

No one is meant to live that way. (1 John 4:18)

Tears truly cleanse the soul.
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears and the sea.

No matter what happens, He is still my God. Yesterday, today and forever.

I walked away from that spot ready to open myself back up and tear down the walls I’ve built for three years.  I am tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop, fearing the worse. I am ready to start letting others in/loving others again and stepping out in faith. It won’t be easy, but now I am ready to at least try.

Adventure

I figure I should write about this now, because next Sunday, I’ll be hanging out with my AZ peeps and probably be a bundle of joy/nerves/crazy…

(Fair warning, there is an over abundance of meme usage in this. Sorry. I usually try to stray from using these, but nothing else seems to work with this post)

I’m 14 days away from what I believe will be one of the most exciting adventures of my life.  I’m taking a roller coaster road trip that will start in Texas and end in Pennsylvania. The first leg of the tour, is a road trip with 96 other people visiting parks in TX, AK, WI, MO, IL, and OH. The last leg is a mini tour to three parks in PA, then back to OH where I get to spend some time with my siblings. The trip is about 20 days total. At the end of it, I would have ridden 94 coasters in all and driven thousands of miles. I so can’t wait!

Seriously the coolest thing I've probably ever done.
Seriously the coolest thing I’ve probably ever done.

In April, I signed up for the Theme Park Review Texas Midwest Tour with my friend Darin. He’s been talking about going on this tour for quite a while. It sounded like a great time but in the back of my head, I seriously doubted it would ever happen. 1) It was really expensive. 2) I was desperately trying to get back to Fresno and spending money on something like this seemed far from logical. 3) I just couldn’t see it happening at least not this year.

Well, I was wrong.

I had no idea what was coming...
I had no idea what was coming…

After visiting with my pastor from the RC in Cave Creek, I came home one Friday night  to an email from Darin  saying he’d signed up for the trip and it would be fun if I could go.

oh-god

Before I even started my prayer to God about whether or not I should even consider this adventure, God shouted a very loud and clear YES.

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I had so many questions:

Me:  Okay, God, what is going on?  Am I insane for actually wanting to do this?

God:  This is a great gift. You’re welcome. I said an abundance of joy is coming your way. Well, here is the start of it. You’re not insane. You’re going.

Me: How am I going to pay for this?

God: You have your savings and your state pension from AZ. You’re going.

Me: What about the job I was just offered?

God: Not the right job. You already know this. Sandi also confirmed this.  You’re going.

Me: What about the VA Home position? I’m supposed to be interviewing for that and trying to move home remember?

God: None of those things have happened yet. Stop worrying about future things. You’re going.

Me: I feel like I barely know him. Isn’t this something you’d rather have me do with one of my besties?

God: Well, get to know him. That’s who I’ve chosen to go. Stop making excuses. You’re going.

Me: What about…

God: Look, you asked for a long vacation before you started your new job. Well, here it is, times 1000.  I know this is not what you imagined, but this is what I am giving you. It is better than anything you could ever think up. You love roller coasters and you love road trips. You’re going to have a great time. Stop worrying about the details and over thinking; I’ve got everything covered. Again, you’re going.

Seriously.
Seriously.

It took me a day and a half from that conversation to sign up and send in my deposit. I was really, REALLY hesitant and very much on the fence about actually taking the trip. God hounded me ALL WEEKEND until I finally broke down and signed up.

God: Alexis…

Me: I’m going to sign up right after this commercial.

God: Send in your deposit Alexis.

Me: I promise I will. I just need to go take a walk at the lake.

God: Alexis…stop procrasinating. Send in your deposit and sign up.

Me: Are you sure you want me to do this? Is this really from you?

God: Nice try. Sign up Alexis. I won’t leave you alone until you do.

God is persistent. VERY.
God is persistent. VERY.

(While I’m trying to sleep) Sign up, Alexis. Have you signed up, yet? Sign up.

(While getting ready to meet friends) Have you signed up yet?

(While driving in my car) You still haven’t signed up? Sign up Alexis.

(While shopping for clothes) Sign up Alexis.

(While hanging out with friends) You’re signing up when you get home.

(While trying to go to sleep). You could have signed up tonight. You can still sign up now. Sign up.

(While eating breakfast) Seriously, you still haven’t signed up. Alexis…

(While getting ready for church) Look, here’s the link again. You should sign up now. Come on Alexis, it’ll only take you five minutes…

Me:  WOW OKAY FINE!!! I am signing up. See, here I go. I sent it via pay pal. I’m going. It’s done. I signed up.

God: That wasn’t so hard was it? Thank you.

Me: **grumbles**

Once I realized that I ACTUALLY sent money, BOUGHT a plane ticket and ACTUALLY signed up for the trip, theOMGWHATTHEHECKAMIDOINGAMICRAZYTHISISINSANEIMUSTBEOUTOFMYMINDHATISGOINGON freak out started.

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I’m pretty sure I woke up every morning that first week and paced my apartment. I was happy, but OH BOY was I freaked out. I was in complete shock that this was actually happening. The craziest thing, everything I’d been through, every hardship and trial now started to make sense. If I wouldn’t have moved to AZ, and worked for the state, I wouldn’t have had the extra money to take the trip. If I would have taken any of those jobs I was offered, I wouldn’t have enough time built up to take off for this trip. I have over 100 hrs of PTO with my current company.  If I would have left AZ in April like I planned, I wouldn’t be able to afford this trip.  Everything was covered. Everything was taken care of.  I was getting what I asked for…and more. God was all over this.

This is the only picture that I can find that most accurately displays what I felt as all of this was going down.
This is the only picture that I can find that most accurately displays what I felt as all of this was going down.

Staying committed to going was not easy at all. So many things popped up immediately after I signed up that really made me question my decision to go. I wanted to leave Arizona SO BAD and this stuck a three month delay on that.  My current job got a lot harder (and is still hard to deal with). I got offered three more jobs, one that would pay for relocation and everything…and I had to say no. There were so many moments I was ready to say “screw this” and do my own thing. God would quietly remind me of the promise He made, the abundance of joy that was coming, my promise to stay on His “Yes Walk” and I’d eventually calm down. This whole thing has been a huge test of my faith (and sanity) but I feel stronger because of it.

Pretty much where I've been the last three months
Pretty much where I’ve been the last three months

It’s been three months since I signed up for this thing, and I think I just now stopped freaking out (sort of). Now there is just a ton of joy and excitement. There are still moments where I really think about this adventure I am about to take and I start to get a little freaked, but then the joy floods in and washes it away.

God blessed me with an epic adventure. EPIC.  He took two of my favorite things, put them together and added a friend to it. It really is perfect.  No one else could have given me this opportunity but Him. I feel like this is a “thank you for being faithful” gift from God. I love it. God is seriously the coolest dad ever.

So like I said, in two weeks from today, I will embark on one of the most epic adventures of my life. I have no idea what is coming, but I bet it is better than anything I could think up. There will be ton of pics. I can’t wait to share them with you all and update you on all the fun that I’ll be having.

As always, thanks for reading!

FEAR

I saw After Earth a few weeks ago and actually loved it.

Surprisingly Good.
Surprisingly Good.

I’m usually hesitant when it comes to M Night Shyamalan’s movies (I still haven’t forgiven you for “The Happening”. Plants?! REALLY?!), but it was a free movie ticket from work. I really, really enjoyed it. There were several amazing moments from that movie, but the quote below is one that stuck with me:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”  Will Smith in After Earth 2013

I love that quote. It applies to so much that is going on in my life at the moment. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. Fear of having control. Fear of losing control. Fear of practically everything I can’t see coming. I tell people that I am spontaneous and love to do things without much thought…LIES! I am those things, but I usually have a planned safety net, ripcord for my parachute in case I jump into something really stupid. I always have a plan A, B, C…you get the point.

Like I'd really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.
Like I’d really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.

But now, things are coming and I honestly can’t see the outcome. I can’t make a plan A, B or C to evade what’s coming without messing up other things. I’m following God’s plan.  It’s a good thing, but it’s caused a lot of anxiety because I am giving up control. My fear issues have become so strong that it had me on my knees at my home church. I was up at the alter, trying to stand, but found myself on the ground literally shaking from it. I felt so paralyzed.  So badly I wanted to cast my fears on Him. So badly I wanted to release my control and hand over everything. Instead, all I managed to squeak out in prayer: “I’m scared.”

God answered right away:

God:  I know you are scared. I need you to breathe. That’s it, deep breath in; deep breath out.

Me: I’m freaking out. I can’t breathe.

God: I know you are. Keep breathing.  Remember, you can be scared, but you have to keep moving despite the fear.

Me: I can’t do this.

God: Yes you can. You can do this. Trust me and let go.

Me: God, I can’t…

God: Do you trust me?

Me: Yes.

God: Let go.

After that conversation, all I could do was be still. You guys, you have no idea how hard it is for me to just be still. My mind races constantly. In that moment, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.  I could barely sing. I was just still.

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I was pretty wiped about from that encounter, as well as the epic dance fest at my friends wedding the previous night. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and sleeping. I felt like I was hit by a semi truck.

I talked to God later on that day, informing Him that I do not want to be scared anymore. I refuse to be ruled by  fear. From that conversation, God instructed me to read Hinds Feet on High Places again. It’s an allegory that follows the character Much Afraid, as she makes her way from the Valley of Humiliation to the High Places. Great story. Right now, I really feel like Much Afraid, and God has informed me that I can no longer remain that way.

You can check out this book here.
You can check out this book here.

On Saturday,  I listed out my fears in my journal and laid them before the Lord. There are so many, and almost all of them are things that are coming in the future.  These fears pop in my head on a daily basis and when they do, God reminds me:

“Hey! What did I tell you about worrying about things that have yet to come? Let me handle it. Focus on today.”

Oh boy, I am trying. All I can do is really try.

My best friend and I hung out on Sunday to make God boxes. It was a great chance to just hang out, talk about our lives and be creative.  We will be using these for our prayers, fears, troubles, wishes, hopes, and dreams. Once they go into that box, they are God’s. This is what I ended up with:

You can find out more about God Boxes here.
You can find out more about God Boxes here.

I am ending this with a prayer request. I have a job interview coming up  with the VA home in July that ultimately sends me home. I’ve been praying for this interview since September and well, it’s finally here. It will be right before my vacation, which adds a whole bunch of complications (in my mind anyway), but it is what God has planned. It’s funny that God put it there, because He knew the dates would make me nervous. And He was right! This is the biggest step in my faith/ trust walk with Him and I am going to keep moving.

Thank you all for reading, praying and commenting whenever I post.  Your words are always encouraging to me. I love you all…seriously.